What does it mean to be an American citizen?
For some pregnant women from other countries, it means a world of opportunity for their unborn children.
We've been hearing a lot lately about the practice of "birth tourism," or when expectant mothers from countries other than the U.S. arrive stateside a few months before their child's impending birth, seeking the American citizenship that comes with being born on U.S. soil.
Taking part in this trend is no cheap task—it could cost these moms a pretty penny to fly to the U.S. and deliver here. The idea that a citizenship might provide greater job prospects for a child later in life, however, keeps them coming.
China and the U.S. Grow Even Closer
Interestingly, wealthy Chinese citizens are using this practice to avoid the fine imposed by the Chinese government when delivering a second or third child. In 2012 especially, the auspicious "Year of the Dragon," China is expected to experience a hike in birth rates which, consequently, might send more Chinese mothers to American soil to give birth.
The practice itself isn't new. ABC News covered it in 2010, pointing out that an entire industry has sprung up around the needs of these mothers. There are hotels that provide an extended stay and a cradle for Baby, as the practice of delivering your child on U.S. soil in a bid for citizenship isn't illegal. The last time the issue was discussed (in 1898, if you can believe that!), the Supreme Court ruled that U.S.-born children of legal immigrants (who are not yet citizens) should be granted citizenship.
On the other end, certain Chinese agencies have developed to help send families to deliver in America, offering services for things like English lessons. It's estimated that 4,000-5,000 Chinese families per year travel to the U.S. to give birth.
How common the practice is elsewhere is difficult to track because mothers' reasons for being the U.S. upon delivery aren't recorded. Currently, the U.S. and Canada are the only developed countries that allow this practice, and members in the Canadian government have been looking to outlaw it.